Selectively detecting attomolar concentrations of proteins using gold lined nanopores in a nanopore blockade sensor†
Disease diagnosis at earlier stages requires the development of ultrasensitive biosensors for detecting low-abundance biomarkers in complex biological fluids within a reasonable time frame. Here, we demonstrate the development of an ultrasensitive nanopore blockade biosensor that can rapidly diagnose a model protein biomarker, prostate-specific antigen (PSA) with high selectivity. The solid-state nanopores have gold located only along the length of the nanopore whilst the rest of the membrane is silicon nitride. The orthogonal use of materials allows nanopore arrays with a different surface chemistry inside the nanopore relative to the rest of the membrane to be fabricated. The importance of this differential surface chemistry is it can improve the detection limit of nanopore blockade sensors in quantitative analysis. Based on such functionalized nanopore devices, nanopore blockade sensors lower the limit of detection by an order of magnitude and enable ultrasensitive detection of PSA as low as 80 aM. The findings from this study open new opportunities for nanopore sensors in further developments including optical detection and ultralow detection limit biosensing at complex biological fluids.